Avoiding the Crossfire
Twelve checkpoints slowed my way home last night. Traffic crawled at the approach of each stop. In the darkness, men who were manning each checkpoint peered into my car and then waved me through. I was only stopped once. I pulled over and they popped the trunk open and searched through the back of my car. They were stopping most of the cars driven by males and giving them a more thorough check. There are normally only one or two checkpoints that I go through on my way home, but with the upcoming anniversary of the uprising, as well as Saadi's threatening remarks about his eminent return from exile in Niger, has got all of Tripoli on heightened alert.
Despite the extra security I feel uneasy and nervous. In the past two weeks I've been witness to three situations in which men, who were having arguments in the street, drew weapons. Seeing men shouting, waving guns and pointing them at each other just because of a silly argument is frightening. Twice, I happened to be in my car with my children when these incidents occurred and I quickly sped away from the scene. The other occasion happened near where I work and I ducked inside the building as men from every nearby building poured into the street to watch or help dispel the argument. No gunshots were fired that time - but there could have been, and that's unsettling.
There are times every day when I hear gunfire in the distance. It makes you stop whatever you happen to be doing, you listen, trying to figure out which direction it's coming from, and you wonder why they’re shooting. In Tripoli, NO GUNS signs outnumber NO SMOKING signs and no one pays any attention to either of them.
Instead of looking forward to celebrating the anniversary of the uprising my family will be staying home, safely inside, until it's over. These are still early days in the new Libya. Hopefully by 2013 we'll have a gun-free February 17th.